What We Do

Since its inception in 1999, First Steps has helped South Carolina’s youngest children and their families get ready for school. As the state’s only entity focused exclusively on increasing school readiness outcomes for all children, First Steps focuses on five broad strategy areas.


Early Education

First Steps leverages state, local and private resources to increase the quality of, and number of children participating in, developmentally appropriate pre-kindergarten programs in both the public and private sectors. Particular emphasis is placed on fidelity to research-based instructional models and targeting of students at-risk of early school failure. Through early education programs, First Steps seeks to:

  • Increase first grade readiness and pre-literacy skills of children through quality early education intervention

  • Increase the number of at-risk children served in quality preschool environments, public and private

  • Increase the qualifications, professional development and access to training for personnel teaching public and private preschool programs

  • Increase the evaluation and impact analysis of federal early education spending (Head Start, Early Head Start, Title I monies) in quality early education strategies at all levels

  • Increase parent involvement strategies for preschool children that impact involvement in K-12

  • Increase documentation and analysis of the state’s school readiness progress

Family Strengthening

First Steps works collaboratively with its agency partners, the faith community and private sector to support parents and families in their own efforts to maximize the school readiness, well being and long-term academic success of the state’s young children. Through family strengthening programs, First Steps seeks to:

  • Increase family literacy and parent education levels

  • Improve parental employability and employment

  • Increase effectiveness of parenting related to child nurturance, learning and interaction, language, health and safety

  • Increase successful parenting/family literacy program targeting, service integration, and results documentation

  • Increase early parent involvement in 4K-12 education settings

Child Care Quality

First Steps recognizes quality child care as a research-based determinant of school readiness. As such, First Steps collaborates with parents, the child care community and its agency and community partners to maximize child care quality throughout the state. Particular emphasis is placed on assisting parents in their efforts to identify those settings most likely to maximize developmental outcomes, and assisting providers in their own efforts to maximize the learning environments they provide for young children. Through child care quality programs, First Steps seeks to:

  • Increase availability of quality child care choices for parents, as measured by increasing numbers of child care providers operating at higher levels of quality

  • Increase the number of child care vouchers available to S.C. families for quality child care

  • Increase school readiness focus in child care settings

  • Increase the leverage of federal and private resources to serve the state’s most at-risk children

  • Increase the number of child care workers achieving progress toward early education certification and continued professional development

  • Improve the quality of the physical and learning environments in child care settings of all types

  • Expand public and private partnerships in 4K

Healthy Start

First Steps recognizes the importance of a healthy start in maximizing both school readiness and the long-term well being of the state’s children. The initiative partners with families, the medical community and other stakeholders to leverage resources for – and increase awareness of – the healthcare, nutrition and early developmental needs of the state’s young children. Through healthy start programs, First Steps seeks to:

  • Improve the health, growth, and development of young children so they enter school physically and mentally prepared to succeed;

  • Integrate medical provider, school readiness and early literacy services

  • Leverage federal resources for targeted families with young children at greatest risk for school failure, expanding medical anticipatory guidance to parents with special needs and other at-risk children.

School Transition

First Steps recognizes school entry as a pivotal transition point in each child’s educational career. In an effort to ensure strong collaborative relationships between the state’s families and schools, the initiative develops strategies to maximize parents’ understandings of state and local expectations and ensure a smooth and beneficial school transition for each child. Through school transition programs, First Steps seeks to:

  • Maximize parents’ understandings of state and local expectations and ensure a smooth and beneficial school transition for each child

  • Introduce children and families to materials and standards to be found in kindergarten or first grade classrooms

  • Increase parents’ positive relationship with the school and faculty